716 Transformers: The Architect

By Nancy J. Parisi

Published on

Dennis Maher is an architect, artist, professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, and founder of Assembly House 150. The latter is located in the former Immaculate Conception Church at 150 Edward Street. “The Assembly House 150 project is about bringing pieces of the city together in a new way,” Maher says. “There is the skill-building/job training piece in the form of SACRA, a construction skills training program — as well as a high school education piece, an art/architecture piece, a preservation piece, and a public programs piece. These pieces all provide opportunities for growth, learning, and contemplation; the space affects the spirit of those who visit, work, or study with us. The total environment of the former church is a wonderland, and by that, I mean that it presents itself as something completely other, outside the everyday, but within that there are all these moments of recognition – parts of buildings, beautiful decorative objects, remainders of the past framed in a new way, and spaces built to instigate discovery. And there are people working away, measuring, cutting wood, assembling. Inside, we are working on the church, we are teaching hands-on skills, helping people find careers in construction and the building arts, and we are also working on creative projects that land beyond our doors, such as the new education space we are designing and building for the Burchfield Penney Art Center. I am trying to fuse art, architecture, and craft with community, in order to make exceptional places to nurture and enrich the imagination.”

716 Tips

“Hike through Tifft Nature Preserve. It’s a unique place because of the site’s history and changes over time, from industrial site to refuse site, and now it’s something of an oasis within the city. Depending on where you are during your walk, you can be completely subsumed by nature, with no real idea of the urban surroundings. At other moments, pieces of the city come into focus – a grain silo, the lakeshore, or a smokestack, appearing suddenly through the trees and landscape shifts. And, of course, there’s wildlife to encounter.”

Nancy J. Parisi headshot

Nancy J. Parisi

Nancy is a social documentation photographer based in Buffalo, NY.